By Scarlet Gratton
Numerous studies have shown the benefits of outdoor exercise. Moderate levels of daily exercise can, and in most cases will, improve your mood and give you more energy. A 2010 study done by researchers from the University of Essex has analyzed ten studies with a topic of mood and self-esteem benefits that come from outdoor activity. Taken all together, these ten studies covered more than 1200 participants and each of them has shown significant positive effects of “green exercise”. But why does the outdoor environment have this effect? The following are just some of the benefits with explanations.
Endorphin levels skyrocket
Endorphin is also known as the happy hormone. You know it is being released whenever you feel euphoric. It helps relieve the feeling of pain, as well. In this sense, endorphin is a natural drug, which is why some enhancement drugs and opioids are based on a similar chemical structure as endorphins.
During exercise endorphin levels are increased, which is why you have that feeling of joy and relief after a good run, or why people tend to get addicted to exercise. With moderate levels of exercise a couple of times a week, you can increase your levels of endorphin enough to make your week a lot better. The “green exercise” experience has been shown to help treat depression as well. Fresh air, the color green and sunlight help your body produce more endorphin and dopamine, which people with depression lack.
More energy – more fun
Being outside can definitely make you feel re-energized, and exercising outdoors actually boosts your energy levels, but only if your body has enough fuel to train and not feel fatigued. Nutrients are the ones fueling this process, so it’s wise to reassess your diet and make sure you are taking enough proteins and carbs essential for your muscle health. Apart from monitoring your macronutrient intake, you should also try to increase the consumption of micronutrients, since they are essential for your body when exposed to strenuous exercise.
Micronutrients are actually crucial for energy production, as well as CNS and muscle tissue repair. The one mineral which is responsible for both, energy production and recovery, is magnesium. It helps relieve sore muscles because it prevents excess calcium from rushing into cells and causing a state of tension and rigidity. At the same time, it is responsible for cellular energy production because it activates adenosine triphosphate (ATP) – the primary energy carrier. Unfortunately, the human body has difficulties absorbing it from food, which is why those physically active use magnesium tablets to avoid magnesium deficiency. Having enough magnesium will ensure your energy level is replenished, and your muscles relaxed, so you can truly enjoy the experience of taking your fitness outside.
As much as it helps your body, exercising outdoors helps your mind as well. A 2016 study has shown that moderate aerobic can improve cognitive functions and concentration in 24 weeks. While most research agrees that you can benefit more from moderate levels of exercise, there is also a 2014 study which states that high-intensity training sessions can help improve short-term memory and overall cognitive performance. Even so, you will be doing your mind a favor by having at least a ten-minute daily walk in the woods or a park. Exercising outdoors in the green provides more fresh air and the very much needed oxygen for better concentration. With boosting your self-esteem as well, outdoor exercise can give you a boost of confidence to finish your assignments with even better results.
The World Health Organization’s recommended level of physical activity for adults is 150 minutes per week. Walking to work and back should not be considered exercise, because every workout should always start with a warm-up session and finish off with gradually lowering the intensity of exercise and stretching. With this becoming a weekly habit, your sleep schedule will improve. This recommended level of exercise has been shown to benefit insomniacs, as well. Falling to bed after a long working day may seem like the best idea at that moment, but going for at least a ten-minute walk or jogging session before bed can help your body prepare for a healthier and calmer sleep.
Don’t be scared when it’s cold outside, because outdoor exercise during winter can have even more benefits, as long as you are prepared for it. You need a warm sports suit, a hat, a very good warm up, and some sort of bandana or other cloth that covers your mouth to protect you from breathing cold air. Training in gyms can be expensive and potentially dangerous if you are new to the equipment or the environment. So, make the most use of your outdoor running tracks and gyms for as long as you can.